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Starkist Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act Settlement

(Washington, D.C. – December 26, 2017) – The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a revised $6.5 million settlement with StarKist Co. and its subsidiary, Starkist Samoa Co., to resolve federal environmental violations at their tuna processing facility in American Samoa.

Overview of Companies

Starkist Samoa Co. owns and operates a tuna processing facility located near Pago Pago Harbor in the village of Atu'u on the Island of Tutuila in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. Tutuila is the largest and most populous of the five islands in American Samoa. Starkist Samoa Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of StarKist Co. The facility processes and cans tuna for human consumption, and also processes fish by-products into fishmeal and fish oil. 

StarKist Co. is also an operator of the facility and manages, directs, and controls environmental compliance and other decisions at the facility.  StarKist Co. is a subsidiary of the Korean company Dongwon Industries.  StarKist Co. is the world’s top supplier of canned tuna; the company’s products are marketed to food retailers and foodservice operators worldwide. 

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The settlement outlined here modifies a September 12, 2017 settlement with Starkist to resolve additional environmental issues at the tuna processing facility in American Samoa.

The violations alleged in the governments’ amended complaint include ongoing exceedances of CWA permit limits, resulting in inadequately treated wastewater being discharged into Pago Pago Harbor. In addition, the amended complaint alleges that Starkist discharged storm water associated with industrial activities from storm pipes to Pago Pago Harbor without a CWA permit. Starkist failed to have proper containment for its above ground storage tanks, and properly implement a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan, as required by the CWA. Starkist also allegedly violated the General Duty Clause of the CAA, Section 112(r), when it failed to ensure proper operation and maintenance of the facility’s ammonia, butane, and chlorine systems.  Finally, Starkist self-disclosed, under EPA’s Audit Policy, violations of the CAA’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), the used oil provisions of RCRA, and the community notification requirements of EPCRA. 

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Injunctive Relief

Starkist will make improvements to the facility to ensure compliance with its CWA permit, including implementation of interim CWA compliance measures, upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant, and upgrades to its oil storage tanks and secondary containment to prevent discharges from reaching Pago Pago Harbor. Also, Starkist will identify and eliminate illicit connections between the facility’s industrial processes and stormwater outfalls at the facility and will obtain permit coverage under EPA’s Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity.

Starkist has made many improvements to its facility to prevent the release of hazardous substances and improve the safety of its workers and the surrounding community. Starkist upgraded its refrigeration system to safeguard against releases of ammonia, discontinued using chlorine gas to disinfect tuna thaw water, and discontinued filling butane tanks at the facility. Also, to address the self-disclosed violations, Starkist instituted a used oil program, applied for proper permits under the CAA NESHAP requirements, and filed the appropriate EPCRA forms with local responders.

Starkist has also agreed to develop and implement an environmental management system, perform annual multi-media environmental compliance audits, and conduct environmental training for employees.  

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Pollutant Reductions

EPA estimates that upon full implementation of the wastewater treatment system upgrades, Starkist’s discharge of pollutants to Pago Pago Harbor will be reduced by the following amounts (pounds):

  • Ammonia: 500,795
  • Total Nitrogen: 2,056,775
  • Total Phosphorus: 553,340
  • Oil and Grease: 2,845,540
  • Total Suspended Solids: 8,168,335

EPA estimates that upon full implementation of the stormwater injunctive relief, Starkist’s discharge of pollutants to Pago Pago Harbor will be reduced by the following amounts (pounds):

  • Biological Oxygen Demand: 2,190
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand: 5,225
  • Nitrogen: 39
  • Total Suspended Solids: 1,877

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Health and Environmental Effects

Starkist’s discharge of excess nutrients (total nitrogen, ammonia, and phosphorus) in alleged violation of the CWA contributes to nutrient loading in Pago Pago Harbor. Reducing nutrients from entering Pago Pago Harbor through the injunctive relief required in this settlement will help reduce nutrient pollution and coastal acidification harmful to coral and other marine life. Also, Starkist’s failure to operate and maintain its ammonia, butane, and chlorine systems in compliance with the CAA’s General Duty Clause endangers the safety of Starkist’s workers and the community. Through the settlement Starkist is taking measures, such as eliminating the use of chlorine gas, to greatly reduce the risk of a release of hazardous substances. The injunctive relief required by the settlement will prevent harm to Starkist’s workers and the community.

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Civil Penalty

Starkist will pay a $6.5 million civil penalty. The United States will receive $3.9 million and the Territory of American Samoa will receive $2.6 million. 

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Supplemental Environmental Project

Starkist will implement a supplemental environmental project as part of the settlement. The project is the purchase and donation of emergency response equipment to local responders in American Samoa, at a cost of $88,000.  

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Comment Period

The settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice.  A summary of the settlement will be available in Samoan on that website.

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Contact Information

Melissa Raack
Water Enforcement Division
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (MC 2243A)
Washington, DC 20460 
(202) 564-7039

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